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As a consumer, there are several advantages that I would enjoy in using social media. To start with, through social media, consumers can find positive suggestions for a product or a service as they go about their online activities (Berthon et al., 2012). For example, if a new taxi service is launched in an area and the first consumers to experience the rides from the new service are satisfied and find the service better than Uber’s, they may go online and suggest the service to the people in their social media circles. This also applies when the service or product fails to satisfy them. It is for this reason that poor experiences with products and services are shared online to warn other users. Secondly, consumers can use social media to interact with different brands, ask for customer service, and even learn more about the brands, rather than seeking to learn about the brands through generic advertisements and the formal websites of the companies (Berthon et al., 2012). Most companies identify with pages and accounts on social media and use them to interact with consumers and give information about their products (De Vries, Gensler, & Leeflang, 2012). For example, if a consumer of Apple products needs to have their gadgets checked, they can interact directly with company representatives on Apple’s social media page for assistance. In addition, through the company’s posts, a consumer can learn about new and upcoming Apple products rather than relying on advertisements, which may sometimes provide information that is less than desired.
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On the other hand, there are dangers for consumers associated with social media use. One such danger is the fact that consumers can be deceived or misled (Brill, 2011). This is mainly done through endorsements, where an advertising message that is posted on social media meant to give consumers the perception that it is an opinion of someone other than the company or advertiser (Brill, 2011). Although endorsements can be honest, they can sometimes be deceptive. For example, an endorser may be hired by a fast food restaurant to give the impression that he or she liked the experience they had at the restaurant while in reality, they would rather go to another restaurant for a meal.
Social media also benefits companies in the same measure as consumers. A company may use social media to its benefits in several ways. First, according to Berthon et al. (2012), a company can increase brand awareness. A company’s presence on social media makes it easier for its customers to find and connect with it (Culnan, McHugh, & Zubillaga, 2010). In addition, with the ‘share’ functionality on most social media platforms, the presence of a company may be felt far and wide. For instance, Apple may share a picture of the iPhone X on its Facebook page, and within hours, the picture may be shared thousands of times by users to people across the United States and beyond. Second, with the help of social media, a company can set up and run targeted ads that identify with real-time results. These ads are not only inexpensive but also effective in distributing content to target groups (De Vries, Gensler, & Leeflang, 2012). For example, a cosmetics company running Facebook ads can target consumers based on interests, location, demographics, and connection. In addition, the company gets an added advantage of tracking and monitoring the performance of the ads it places in real time.
On the other hand, the use of social media also poses dangers to businesses. The reputation of a business can be stained or destroyed from a wrong step taken by an employee. A real-life example of such as situation was through a tweet by Gap Inc. where the company, through its employee, posted “All impacted by #Sandy, stay safe! We’ll be doing lots of Gap.com shopping today. How about you?” following the Hurricane Sandy (Roberts, 2012). Through the tweet, the company was seen to be taking advantage of a human tragedy that was Sandy Hook shooting. The tweet triggered widespread outrage with some Twitter users threatening to boycott the company’s products (Roberts, 2012).
I think companies should encourage the use of social media by employees. This is because they stand to gain more by their employees engaging in social media than not (Allen, 2010). Employees using social media may lead to increased exposure of a company’s brand, which may result in higher future sales. These higher sales are inspired by potential customers who become familiar with the products and services of the company through the social posts made by its employees. Allen (2010) insists that employees stand as the best advocates of a company’s brand and they can be especially useful in spreading the word regarding new products, benefits, and promotions that people in their social media circles may be interested in. I, however, believe the use of social media should be controlled and monitored to contain any risks associated with social media.
One idea that I would suggest to improve the current methods of social media use by companies meant to benefit the company is social media training for all employees. Training employees of a company on social media usage can help it reach wider audiences, increase sales, build better brand awareness, and increase employee engagement. These benefits can further translate into other benefits including the achievement of a sustainable competitive advantage among other benefits. The Human Resources and Marketing departments of the company should work together to develop training guidelines and a social media guideline policy (Allen, 2010). These two elements can detail a wide range of aspects including available innovative techniques like hashtags and funny gifs and meme to champion a course, performance expectations, and the lines employees are not supposed to cross when speaking on behalf of the company.
In summary, social media is indeed a wave that is going to last well into the future and companies use it as a tool to achieve customer intimacy and gaining a competitive edge. The use of social media is both helpful and disastrous for both consumers and companies, and its usage should be approached with caution to establish the positive and negative aspects of the resource. Exercising caution also ought to be adopted by companies through their employees to ensure that social media as a resource does not work against the interests of the company. It is recommended that companies conduct social media training and develop social media guidelines to direct employees on how to act in the best interests of their employers.
- Allen, J. (2010). Social media at the workplace. Enterprise/Salt Lake City, 39(34), 10.
- Berthon, P. R., Pitt, L. F., Plangger, K., & Shapiro, D. (2012). Marketing meets Web 2.0, social media, and creative consumers: Implications for international marketing strategy. Business Horizons, 55(3), 261-271.
- Brill, J. (2011). Privacy & Consumer Protection in Social Media. NCL Rev., 90, 1295.
- Culnan, M. J., McHugh, P. J., & Zubillaga, J. I. (2010). How large US companies can use Twitter and other social media to gain business value. MIS Quarterly Executive, 9(4).
- De Vries, L., Gensler, S., & Leeflang, P. S. (2012). Popularity of brand posts on brand fan pages: An investigation of the effects of social media marketing. Journal of interactive marketing, 26(2), 83-91.
- Roberts, C. (2012, November). Using Hurricane Sandy to promote sales prompts backlash for online retailers like American Apparel, Gap. Retrieved November 19, 2017 from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/sandy-themed-sales-spark-online-outrage-article-1.1195904